how to cook quinoa

How to cook quinoa for breakfast, lunch or dinner

What is quinoa?

Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that is grown for its edible seeds. It is a healthier substitute for rice and similar grains. Quinoa seeds are a great source of fiber, protein and vitamins B. Actually, it is the only plant-based protein that has all necessary amino acids as protein you find in meat. Other plants rich in protein don’t contain all these amino acids and they are not a complete source of protein like quinoa.

Not only is it very nutritious, but quinoa is also very easy to cook. If you wonder how to cook quinoa so it doesn’t get mushy, bitter and bland, read below all the tips. 

Quinoa nutrition

One cup of cooked quinoa equals to:

  • 222 calories
  • 39 grams (g) of carbs
  • 8g of protein
  • 6g of fat
  • 5g of fiber
  • 1g of sugar

Quinoa is also rich in manganese, magnesium, folate, copper, phosphorus. It has a low glycemic index and it is low in carbs.

How to cook quinoa?

When you buy packaged quinoa, you should follow the package instructions on cooking quinoa. If you buy quinoa in bulk, unpackaged, you can try different quinoa to water ratios and see which one gives the best result.

Similar to couscous, quinoa should be cooked separately from other ingredients. First you cook quinoa and then you use it with other ingredients to make a complete meal.

  1. If your quinoa tastes bitter, you should wash it first by using a mesh strainer. Don’t leave it soaked in water, just wash it with running water. 
  2. Put quinoa and water or other liquid*** in a pot. 
  3. Cook quinoa at low to medium heat until it has absorbed almost all the water. It’s usually around 15 to 20 minutes. When there’s just a bit of water left, remove the pot from the stovetop as quinoa will absorb the rest of it. This will prevent quinoa from being mushy. 
  4. Stir well, leave it to rest for a few minutes and then use it immediately for dishes or leave it in the fridge to cool off. You can keep quinoa in the fridge for a few days and use it with different dishes.

***Quinoa is usually cooked with water, especially if you want to use it for salads, or as an ingredient in already spicy dishes. But, you can also cook quinoa with any type of milk when making a quinoa breakfast bowl. It will be much tastier. Also, if you use quinoa as an alternative in rice dishes or in a soup, you can cook it with chicken broth or other types of broths.

Below you can find some ideas on how to cook quinoa for breakfast, lunch or dinner and prepare different healthy meals.

Quinoa to water ratio

Usually, the quinoa to water ratio is 1:2, which means you need to double the amount of water or other liquid when cooking quinoa. With 1 cup of dry quinoa and 2 cups of water or other liquid, you will make 3 cups of cooked quinoa.

This cooking ratio is a very big deal when cooking quinoa, because if you put less water, quinoa may be too bitter or crunchy and even worse, it can become mushy if you put more water than recommended. The end result should be fluffy quinoa. 

How do you eat quinoa?

If you wonder what’s the best way to eat quinoa and how to include it in your regular diet, you can start with some simple dishes and then experiment further with more complex ones.  For instance, the best way to start eating quinoa is to cook quinoa for breakfast and make healthy breakfast bowls with quinoa, milk, nuts and fresh fruits. If you like to eat salads you can add cooked quinoa to your salad meals. Later on, you can cook quinoa for chili, curry and similar meat and vegetable stews, moussaka, as an alternative to rice and chicken casserole dishes, etc. Of course, if you don’t eat meat you can eat quinoa instead of it.

Quinoa for breakfast

Those who like to eat cereals, oatmeal, overnight oats and other similar healthy breakfasts, quinoa bowl is actually even better. Instead of putting oats you can cook quinoa according to the guidelines above, and then mix it with fresh or dried fruits, honey, nuts, chia or flax seeds. When you eat quinoa for breakfast, you should better use milk instead of water. You can cook quinoa with cow milk, oat milk, almond milk, you name it. The choice of fruits and nuts is also up to you, there are endless combinations.

Quinoa for lunch or dinner

Quinoa salad

One of the most popular salads with quinoa is quinoa avocado salad. With or without meat, you can use quinoa on almost any salad. Combine fresh vegetables of your choice, toss some cooked quinoa and add a salad dressing. If you make a cold salad then you should better cook quinoa with water and leave it in the fridge to cool off before using it.

Quinoa and chicken

Chicken goes well with everything and so it does with quinoa. You can combine quinoa and chicken in a salad, or serve quinoa with roasted vegetables as a side dish for chicken. You can also use quinoa instead of rice when making chicken curry. 

Quinoa soup

When cooking quinoa in a soup, you cook it in a broth together with vegetables and optionally meat. Start by stir frying vegetables for the soup, adding quinoa in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Not all vegetables require the same cooking time so you first add those that require longer cooking. If you don’t want to experiment with making your own quinoa soup, you can start with some already tested recipes:

Quinoa black bean burger

Whether you are a vegan, a vegetarian or you simply want to skip meat today, you can still enjoy a tasty burger. The combination of cooked quinoa and black beans from the can gives a perfect vegan burger. Not only is it healthy, but it is also very easy to make. While quinoa is cooking, you can rinse the beans and prepare other ingredients for the burger such as spices, onions, herbs. Your burger will be ready in less than 30 minutes.

Quinoa desserts

Believe it or not, you can use quinoa to make desserts such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, fudge brownies, chocolate pudding. Depending on a recipe you find, you may use cooked quinoa, quinoa flour or quinoa flakes.

How to cook quinoa with various cookware

The simplest way to cook quinoa is in a small pot or a saucepan, on the stovetop. Then you use cooked quinoa to prepare other dishes, even baked ones, such as quinoa stuffed peppers. If you like to use instant pot, rice cooker or other cooking gadgets, here are all the tips you should know.

How to cook quinoa in instant pot

When cooking quinoa in an instant pot, you need to reduce the amount of water. Liquids are harder to evaporate from the instant pot than from the regular pot. So, for one cup of quinoa you will need one and a half cup of water. Before you put quinoa in the instant pot, wash it through the mash strainer. Also, put some cooking spray in the instant pot, so quinoa doesn’t get sticky.

Set the instant pot to cook 1 minute on high pressure. When the cooking is done, let the pressure release naturally for ten minutes. 

How to cook quinoa in rice cooker

Cooking quinoa in a rice cooker is almost the same as on the stovetop. The quinoa to water ratio is the same, one cup of quinoa and two cups of water. It will also take about 15 minutes to cook quinoa in a rice cooker. However, the cooking time depends on the amount of quinoa you cook and more importantly, on the type of your rice cooker. Some rice cookers require up to 30 minutes of cooking. As for the settings on the rice cooker, you should use white rice setting to cook quinoa. 

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